Sohin Shah is the COO and co-founder of iFunding, and created iFunding’s mobile app, the first in the Crowdfunding market. Sohin also created Valuation App, which allows finance professionals to analyze businesses and start-ups. His prior experience is at New York investment banks and he holds a Masters in Finance & Risk Engineering from NYU.
Q: Before getting to the iFunding mobile app, what’s your sense of technology innovation in real estate overall?
A: Impressive but uneven. There is a lot of technology for the consumer looking for a home or apartment – the Zillow/Trulia merger is an example of scale in that segment. Also, developers looking to purchase properties wholesale have sites like Auction.com, and larger institutions are increasing their data and automation for deal assessment through services like Compstak and Reonomy. But there’s been surprisingly little innovation available to the individual investor who wants to participate in real estate projects and profits.
Q: What can an individual investor do with your mobile app?
A: Anything she could do on our website, from browse opportunities to review documents to actually invest. We can also send an alert to your app to let you know when deals are available.
Q: Can I switch back and forth from mobile to website?
A: Absolutely. We made it as seamless as possible going both ways.
Q: I have to ask you: was the mobile app really necessary? Do your investors log in from mobile devices? Or is this a gimmick?
A: You would be amazed. Already, about 25% of the visits to ifunding.co come from mobile devices, roughly two-thirds of these from smart phones and one-third from tablets. We realized our customers want to get information and make investments when it is convenient to them, from the couch to the hair stylist.
Q: But are people really moving tens of thousands of dollars into investments via smartphone?
A: Yes, definitely. Although we don’t have hard data, those completing the entire investment process by mobile device have probably invested with us before. They know what they want and are looking to roll their money into the next deal before someone else fills that slot. Keep in mind that some of our deals fund with a day or hours, so mobile access at any time is valuable to top investors.
Q: Why do you think people might be skeptical investing significant dollars by phone?
A: Sometimes people have a tendency to underestimate the individual investor and what they become comfortable with. Think about banking by phone, or sending funds by PayPal. What we’re learning in Crowdfunding is that individuals really do want the power to control their own destinies. Our mobile app is just one more tool helping them do that.
Q: Can you use the app to just browse properties and learn about investing?
A: You sure can. Many people do. We provide a lot of educational content and try to help investors make smart decisions. When you’re traveling or have idle time, instead of playing a game on your phone, why not learn more about real estate and empower yourself financially?
Q: Did you build the app yourselves?
A: Yes, our technology team built it. I had the experience of building Valuation App and we had all the industry knowledge in house, so that made sense for us to design and program it.
Q: Is the mobile app secure? As secure as your website?
A: Yes, definitely. In fact, no user information is stored on the mobile device – you could drop your phone in Grand Central Station and have no worry about compromised information. All information is on our secure servers and downloaded to the mobile device through an encrypted connection only when you use the app, then erased when you quit.
Q: Do you plan to add more functionality in the future?
A: We update the app several times a month based mainly on customer suggestions. The future will see more eye-catching features, though you can imagine we haven’t planned an “Apple Watch” version just yet.
Q: So what’s it called and where can I get it?
A: It’s called “iFunding – Real Estate Investing through Crowdfunding.” It’s available on iOS and Android devices. You can download it for free at bitly.com/ifundappios and bitly.com/ifundappandroid.